Page 50 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 16

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Mt. Ebal. At the foot of Gerizim is Joseph’s tomb, and adjoining
it is the sepulchre of his sister Dinah, daughter of Jacob. The
tomb of Hamor, recorded in the Torah as the founder of
Shechem, is situated on top of the mountain (fig. 12). The word
hamor,
meaning an ass in Hebrew, was apparently regarded as an
offensive name; therefore, the grave is often left unmarked.
Pictures of Safed, city of the mystics, and of neighboring
Meiron celebrated for the sepulchre of Rabbi Shim’on ben
Yohai, appear in several books. Safed is separated from Meiron
by a deep rocky vale noted for its wild beauty. This vale is
known as
Gei Ha-Tahanot ,
Vale of Mills (Wadi at-Tawahin in
Arabic), because in ancient times it contained numerous mills
operated by water running down the ravine.
Gei Ha-Tahanot
is identified by a wind-mill in the picture, although none actu-
ally existed on that site (fig. 13).
The frontispiece of several books printed in Safed display
the building in Meiron where the tombs of Rabbi Shim’on ben
Yohai and of his son Elazar are shown. Throngs from all over
the country and even from abroad are attracted annually to these
tombs. Tradition places in the village of Peki’in, amid the moun-
tains of Upper Galilee, west of Meiron, the cave to which Rabbi
Shim’on and Elazar escaped from the Romans. Here Rabbi
Shim’on is reputed to have written the
Zohar,
the standard text
of Cabbalist theosophy. An imaginary etching of this cave is on
the front page of
Ben Yohai,
printed in 1815 to eulogize the
renowned rabbi. Legend has it that Rabbi Shim’on and his son
lived in this cave for thirteen years, eating the fruits of a carob
tree that grew at its entrance, and drinking from a spring that
flowed miraculously nearby (fig. 14).
Perhaps one final observation should be added. It is a modern
aphorism that a single picture is worth a thousand words. The
avidity with which prints and illustrations have been made since
medieval days to depict sites in Eretz-Israel, demonstrates that
this aphorism was first recognized centuries ago.